Living Frugally: Do-It-Yourself

Thinking back to my younger days, I remember many adults who insisted on doing certain things themselves instead of paying someone else to do it. I remember many conversations where a family member or friend explained to one of my parents that they had replaced a window, built their own shed, or even fixed the family vehicle transmission. At the time, I just thought it was how folks lived their lives…it was normal.

Somewhere along the line however, mending your own shoes instead of buying a new pair, or making your own laundry soap became almost completely unheard of. I strongly believe this has contributed to the decline of financial freedom in America. We have exchanged money-saving hard work for the luxury of convenience. However, we can return to the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) ways of the past in order to prosper today.

Here are some of my favorite DIY tips:Do It Yourself

Stop buying laundry soap. My wife discovered a recipe for laundry soap awhile back that yielded a big bucket of soap that was easily three times what we’d get if we bought a bottle of traditional laundry soap. Then she discovered an even simpler recipe which I’ll share with you. It’s really easy: one part Borax and one part Arm & Hammer Washing Soap. Use one tablespoon per load. That’s it. This recipe will outlast a bottle of store bought detergent three times over. I took a 16 oz. mason jar, filled it with half of each ingredient, and I’ve used it for over a month now, doing about three loads of laundry per week. I have just under 1/4 of the bottle left. That’s what I call savings!

Don’t buy food, Grow it. I read a blog a few weeks ago on GreenMoneyStream in which the author spoke of the family garden they’d planted. They enjoyed the taste of fresh fruits and veggies along with the convenience of not leaving home for the things they’d grown. Also, this family sold the excess fruits and veggies earning back almost all they had initially invested in creating the family garden. In today’s economic climate this was a very smart move. This family is not far from the point where their garden will be listed as a genuine asset because the income it generates will surpass the cost of upkeep.

Learn to Barter. On the island of St. Croix, where I was born, my dad planted a large garden on three sides of the half-acre we lived on. He was a welder and pipe-fitter at the time and my mother was great at crochet and embroidery. They both used their talents as well as their large, productive garden to barter for things they needed. One barter in particular I remember was my dad giving away about fifteen pounds of fruit in exchange for the iron shafts he wanted so that he could build a swing set for his five children. My mother taught crochet and embroidery classes at the private school I attended in exchange for a reduction in tuition cost. These barters and others allowed my parents to keep money in their savings account, where it continued earning interest, yet they were still able to acquire what they needed. I think it’s also important to note that my parents eventually built a big house, debt free, years later. How big? Five-bedroom, four and a half bath, library, living room, dining room, formal dining room, media center, two fire places, a patio for the master bedroom, exercise room, and foyer.

Consider your talents and abilities; and determine a way to use them to save money and potentially create an income for yourself. There is no reason we cannot follow the example set by those who came before us and profited by harnessing the DIY attitude!

Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.


  1. I used to be able to do nearly all my own car repairs – but these days manufacturers have made this nearly impossible for back yard mechanics like me by linking most parts to a cars electronic management system.
    Brakes, and oil changes are all i can manage these days. Saves me a bit of money but the car still has to go to a dealership for its major services.
    My dad was never interested in DIY so everything I do I have learnt from friends.
    One thing I will say is that the ability to do DIY is all about confidence and a determination to finish a job to a high standard.
    Theres nothing worse (or as obvious) as a poor quality DIY job.
    My wife often is often critical that I always have half a dozen un-finished DIY jobs in progress – but hey – I’m a guy!

    • Mike, Great point with regards to DIY and maintaining a high standard. There is wisdom in knowing what you can do safely and smartly…at a high standard. As with many things, sometimes you have to know for what and when to call a professional. Thanks for stopping by, my friend.

  2. I’m very glad that the family garden is paying off for you Green Money Stream. Thanks for serving as proof that it’s possible to be more self sufficient than the govt. would have us believe!!

  3. Your parents provided you with an excellent financial education and are clearly role models for those of us looking to harness our DIY attitude. I agree that we are seeing that less and less in American society and it is unfortunately just not a valued quality among the masses. But I will continue to strive to improve my own skills and self-reliance.

    Thanks so much for the mention! It has taken a few years, but our family garden is now starting to develop into a small side income as well as providing healthy produce.

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